Growing Pains

Growing Pains

I’m sure many of you reading this may be dealing with or have dealt with a child who has experienced pain during peak growing years.  Maybe you even remember going through this yourself!  It is fairly common for children to experience some pain from ages 8-16 while they are growing.  Growth spurts leave children vulnerable because bones often grow at a faster rate than muscles and tendons, causing them to be tight and put stress on growth plates found at the end of growing bones.

Sometimes this is just pain that is of no real concern and does not limit a child’s function or activity, but in some situations this can be more of a problem.  Often times children who are more active and participate in regular sport suffer the most.

Two of the most common types of growth related disorders we see in our Sports and Orthopedic Physical Therapy department at Nationwide Children’s:

Osgood Schlatter Disease
When the quadriceps tendon places stress on the tibial tuberosity (top of the shin bone, under the knee cap) where it attaches causing inflammation of that growth plate.  Sometimes this causes a visible bump at the tibial tuberosity.  This often causes knee pain with running, jumping, stair climbing, and kneeling.

Sever’s Disease
When the Achilles tendon places stress on its attachment on the calcaneus (the heel bone).  Often children experience pain with jumping, running, walking barefoot, and getting out of bed first thing in the morning with this condition.

What can we do about this?  Is there a cure?

There is not necessarily a “cure” for these conditions, but there are treatments that can be done to help relieve pain.

  • Ice the affected area for 10-15 minutes daily and always after activity
  • Stretch the muscles around the affected area daily, especially before activity
  • Limit painful activities- this does not always mean a complete rest from sport or activity, but continuing to perform activities that cause pain make it more difficult to reduce the inflammation and put the child at risk for further injury due to compensation.

When should we seek medical attention?

  • Limping during or after activity
  • Decreased ability to perform activities normally (running more slowly, avoiding putting weight on the affected side)
  • Pain at rest
  • Increased swelling

This type of pain/injury can be very frustrating for a child who wants to be active but is having difficulty because of pain.  Best thing to do is be proactive and make stretching a part of your child’s normal routine and have planned breaks from sporting activities.

The Sports Medicine team and Sport and Orthopedic physical therapists at Nationwide Children’s have extensive experience in dealing with the topic of growing pains, so when in doubt, give us a call!

Here’s to happy and healthy growing!

Jennifer Borda, PT, DPT
Jenny Borda, PT, DPT is a physical therapist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital at our Dublin Sports Medicine building. She graduated with her Doctorate in Physical Therapy in 2008 from The Ohio State University and has been working at NCH since then. She is a STOTT PILATES® certified instructor and has a special interest in treating gymnasts and dancers. Jenny grew up as a competitive gymnast and has continued to stay active in sports, currently as a competitive CrossFit athlete.

3 thoughts on “Growing Pains

  1. Children should also be evaluated for Ehlers Danlos Syndrome when they are complaining of “growing pains.” I wish we had pushed for answers for our children sooner. My oldest daughter, now 17, has suffered greatly because of EDS. I may not have been able to prevent all the pain, but PT early in life would have certainly helped. Do you have an EDS team in the PT or genetics department at Nationwide Children’s Hospital?

    1. Morgan Post on said:

      EDS is definitely something that should be considered when appropriate! Although we do not have a specific EDS team in our PT department here at Nationwide Children’s, most of our therapists have experience treating patient with this condition. – Jennifer Borda, PT, DPT

    2. Sherry Selfe on said:

      Thank you for your response. I am happy to hear that we have qualified PT’s so close to home. We look forward to speaking to you soon!

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